The Town of Bourne has been included in a lawsuit stemming from a playground accident that resulted in a little girl having one of her little toes severed. The lawsuit seeks nearly $1 million in damages.
The lawsuit was filed in Plymouth Superior Court on February 18. Attorney Scott C. Holmes of Charlestown filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiff, Suzanne M. MacDonald of Carver. Ms. MacDonald’s suit seeks $944,519 for medical bills and for the traumatic amputation of her daughter’s toe.
The accident happened on July 10, 2018. The 2-year-old girl suffered the loss of one of her little toes. The toe was cut off when she went down a damaged slide at the then-new Buzzards Bay Park playground.
The incident forced the immediate closure of the playground and splash pad from the remainder of that summer until late June 2019. Last November, Town Counsel Robert S. Troy confirmed that the MacDonald family had filed a claim with the town’s insurance carrier in relation to the incident.
Ms. MacDonald’s complaint said there was a one-foot-long, vertical crack in the slide. The right little toe was severed from her daughter’s foot when it got caught in the crack. The girl was taken by ambulance to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, where doctors were unsuccessful at reattaching the toe.
According to the complaint, members of the Bourne police and fire departments stated that the slide had been shut down prior to the day the girl used it. Bourne police officers who responded to the scene saw caution tape that previously had been at the entrance of the slide had been removed, the complaint reads.
Also in the complaint, Bourne police stated that a sign which read “Do Not Use” was on the ground and not positioned on the slide to warn people to keep off.
The new playground was part of a $2.3 million renovation of Buzzards Bay Park that was paid for with Community Preservation Act funds. The new park and playground opened to the public in late May 2018. The refurbished park included a splash pad that proved to be very popular with families from Bourne and surrounding towns.
Shortly after the accident involving the little girl, a certified playground safety expert, Nancy White, was hired to conduct a safety audit of the play area. Ms. White did her review of the playground on July 19 and 21, 2018.
Ms. White reported her findings to the board of selectmen in November 2018. She said the playground appeared to be deficient, relative to federal and state law regarding the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The report was kept private and not available to the public until May 14, 2019. On that date, the board of selectmen voted unanimously during an executive session to release the redacted version of the safety audit.
The lawsuit states that the loss of the toe has caused permanent and cosmetic damage for Ms. MacDonald’s daughter. Now 4 years old, the youngster “suffered the excision of a part of her foot, endured pain and suffering, incurred medical bills, has and will have a continuing disability and suffered a permanent disfigurement of her body,” according to the complaint.
In addition to the Town of Bourne, Ms. MacDonald is suing Weston & Sampson, designers of the playground; Green Acres Landscape & Construction, the company hired to install the playground equipment; and Kompan, manufacturers of the slide on which the little girl was hurt.
The lawsuit brings six counts against the four defendants, two of which pertain to the Town of Bourne. One count charges the town with willful, wanton and reckless conduct.
The lawusuit stated that “Bourne owed a duty” to the youngster “to maintain the slide in a reasonably safe condition, free from a dangerous and defective condition.” The town’s obligation, the lawsuit said, included warning the victim “of the crack in the slide that would cause her injury.”
The second count charges the town with violation of state law relative to Public Records Requests. The lawsuit said the town clerk’s office failed to respond expediently to a public records request for documents relative to the case.
In the court filing, Mr. Holmes said that on March 25, 2019, he filed a Public Records Request with Bourne Town Clerk Barry H. Johnson. Mr. Holmes said he requested 30 documents, all related to the accident, the investigation into the incident, and other matters relative to what happened to the little girl.
Mr. Johnson did not respond to the request until October 9, 2019, seven months later, Mr. Holmes said.
According to the attorney, the response, in the form of thousands of emails, failed to identify specific documents, explain redactions in a playground safety study report, or point to any investigation into the cause of the accident.
The lawsuit charges that failure to comply with state law shows that Bourne “has not acted in good faith, depriving the Plaintiff of important records and information and violated this particular statute without reason.”
Court records show the town has until June 17 to respond to the complaint.